Romance and love: two of the most fraught and picked-over words in the history of language. Most of us spend our lives looking for these things, hoping only that once we find them our search will end, that we will have truly found love and not some cheap copy with an expiration date. But when I’m constantly consumed with thoughts of where to go next, is there room in there for love? Is it even something to be desired? When you have decided to be rootless, how will you ever stay still long enough to intertwine yourself with another? Physically restless is one thing, complicated enough in itself, but when you’re emotionally and mentally restless… is there any hope at all?
Traveling, I inevitably meet new people every day, few (percentage-wise) in whom I see something which interests me in a more-than-platonic way. Within this small group of people are the rare individuals in whom I see something which goes beyond the physical. Often these people are travelers like myself, attuned to some silent call powerful enough to make us leave comfort and stable jobs and loved ones behind in the search for something even we ourselves can not succinctly identify. Any shared attraction between us is like the indelible but fleeting joining of two forces of nature, like hurricanes sharing an epicenter for an instant before darting off towards their eventual reintegration into the atmosphere from whence they came. The moment takes the form of a word, a look, a brushing together of bodies, and yet this moment– in a different life or with a different set of decisions– could easily be the beginning of something.
Traveling aside, it has been a pattern in my life to meet people or discover feelings for old people (old as in familiar, not aged) when I am on the cusp of departure. It’s like the universe, time and time again, as I’m running full-speed towards some destination, throws someone unexpected into my path, someone that disallows me from setting off without just the tiniest tinge of regret: “Have fun!” the universe seems to say. “But don’t forget that there are always things you could have had back at home, too!”
For me it is always a choice: freedom or love. I can’t seem to reconcile them. I am always wary of comfort zones. I believe that to grow and develop as people we must sometimes willfully leave our comfort zones behind. People tend to choose what they’re familiar with, and having never been in love myself, there is more fear in choosing love than in finding myself on dark streets in countries with unintelligible languages or in adventure-derived accidents far from the protection and care of those who love me. This brings up a potentially troubling question: is it possible that unfettered freedom is my comfort zone??
Possibilities constantly swirl around us like dust motes in a sunbeam– what would happen if I said yes to someone else for once instead of always saying yes only to myself? Or is it a problem that I am unable to think of love without envisioning burying parts of myself that would not mesh with a life lived in one place with one person?
I have talked myself down from many a leap of faith when it came to my heart and I know that I am afraid– of missing out, of settling, of complacency. I know that what was once a coping mechanism has become a self-imposed barrier, but that knowledge in itself does not provide a clue to said barrier’s demolition. All I know is that the roads of the world lead into and back out of my very bones. Would I ever want to cut those ties to allow for an actual person to establish holds on my heart?
I have fought off potential muggers with my bare hands, cut off my hair on a whim, traveled to countries where no one I’ve ever known has ever been, but can I be open to this most basic of human needs? I am afraid of relatively little: of fainting, of chronic pain, of helplessness. But I am afraid of nothing more than perceived chains, of cages, regardless how beautiful and comfortable. Can I overcome fear, and welcome love? Can I tap into this courage that so many seem to be amazed at and finally take one of the only risks I’ve ever avoided, a danger not to my body, but to my heart?